Jackson lawmaker among those working to amend Prop B

Monday, February 14, 2011

Even though Missouri voters approved Proposition B, known as the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act," some lawmakers have introduced legislation in the house to modify or repeal the law. The measure placed new requirements on large-scale dog breeding operations, including limiting the number of dogs that were used for breeding purposes to 50, requiring resting periods between breeding and other standards.

Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson, helped introduce some of these bills to the house, and said changing the law is in the best interest of the agriculture community.

"We're trying to protect the farming industry in the state," she said. "The bill was very deceptive."

Lichtenegger and others believe the motive of some of the measure's largest supporters was to limit and eventually eliminate animal agriculture in Missouri. She said the Humane Society of the United States, and others, had an ulterior motive in spending thousands dollars in advertising to help the measure pass.

"It's important for people to realize it was a deceiving campaign paid for by people in California," she said. "Something smells fishy in Denmark."

Lichtenegger said even though the bill was passed by Missouri voters, modifying or repealing the law is needed to protect the agricultural community from this threat. She said she doesn't think voters truly understood the measure and what their "yes" vote meant.

Dale Steffens, Cape Girardeau County Farm Bureau president, also said voters didn't truly understand the law's true intent. He hopes the law is repealed, because the state doesn't need new rules telling people how to breed their animals.

"Missouri livestock farmers do an excellent job of taking care of their animals. We don't need someone from Washington, D.C., telling us how to care of our livestock," he said.

Steffens said lawmakers should focus their attention to enforcing the dog breeding industry's current regulations, not creating new ones.

He said he is concerned that the language of the law, particularly the 50-dog limit, is the first step in curtailing the number of cows, chickens and other farm animals.

While the Humane Society of the United States wouldn't comment on the threat of the law being modified or repealed, it did direct questions to Barbara Schmitz with the Missourians for the Protection of Dogs.

Schmitz said she was disturbed by lawmakers deciding to go against the will of the people.

They lost, and they want a second bite at the apple," she said. "We believe the voters spoke."

She said the suggestion that those who voted for the measure were confused or misinformed particularly disturbing.

"I think it's nonsense," Schmitz said. "It's insulting to say to the voters 'You don't know what you're voting on.'"

While she is obviously concerned with the welfare of dogs, she said she feels that lawmakers are discounting the votes of more than 995,000 American citizens.

"It's saying our votes don't matter," she said.

If Proposition B had failed, she said neither her group nor other supporters would be pushing legislation to alter the decision.

House Bills 94, 131, 281 and 405 are seeking to alter the measure. Lichtenegger is sponsoring town-hall meeting at 7 p.m. Friday at the University of Missouri Extension office in Jackson to discuss the legislation.

cbartholomew@semissourian.com

243-8600

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